Owning a home is a launch pad for other life successes. You learn responsibility, build wealth, and have a sense of accomplishment and independence. But as housing costs increase, fewer Americans can afford the experience.

The U.S. has seen a steady decrease in first time home buyers over the past decade, reaching an all time low of 26% in 2022. Cost plays a part in that drop.

“Between rising interest rates and cost of materials and the market, it pretty much costs double what it did four years ago to own a home,” said Rep. Thomas Kutz, a Republican for Cumberland County who is on the Housing & Community Development Committee.

Lawmakers in Harrisburg have several proposals to help first time home owners bridge the financial gap- like a first time home buyer savings account, sponsored by Rep. Ryan Bizzarro of Erie.

“So this account is similar to a 529 savings plan. It's tax deductible; and once in place, helps young people set up roots in their communities and attain the American dream,” said Bizzarro.


Saving up for the initial home purchase- the down payment and closing costs- is one of the largest hurdles for first time buyers. These buyers are also competing in a low inventory market. The Erie area had over 1,000 properties for sale in 2019. Now the market has less than 300.

“Yesterday one came on the market at $169,900, and it had 30 contracts on it.” shared Marsha Marsh, a realtor for northwest PA. "So if you're not prepared and you don't have money you know, you're just going to lose out.”

Support first time home owners is an issue that has risen above party lines in Harrisburg. Bizzarro’s H.B. 126 passed out of committee today with full bipartisan support.

"Everyone understands the housing crisis is real and everyone understands the benefits and advantages of these sorts of housing policies to help first time home buyers,” said Kutz.

Bizzarro noted that making first time home purchases easier attracts younger generations to the state.

Lawmakers hope home purchasing bills will be included in budget negotiations this summer. Realtors note that curious home shoppers don’t have to wait for legislation to start looking.

Christina VanDergrift, broker owner for Mountain Valley Realty in Wellsboro, PA, says first time home buyers can explore local lending programs now as the busy season starts. She shared some local programs have interested rates around 6%.

“Inventory still has been low, but it's that time of the year when more people are going to be listing because of the weather and school being out,” said VanDergrift. "And, you know, interest rates have been like a roller coaster ride, but they have come down some already.”